Adult Sex Ed

Busting Ignorance & Stereotypes: What it’s Like to be a Bisexual Man

AGWDM bi male threesomeI recently wrote an article for AROUSR’s blog about bisexual male acceptance. It sparked a lot of shares and discussions on social media among sex-positive people.

Yet I wondered how many men read the post and kept it to themselves, just like the secrets they harbor about their bi-curiosity or their life on the down-low.

In the past 15 years, Western society has come a long way about accepting gays and lesbians. Most gay and lesbian adults I know in my social circle haven’t had many issues about coming and being out. About half of Western society considers themselves to be gay and lesbian allies, and even some conservative politicians are toning down their anti-gay rhetoric going into the 2016 presidential race. It’s even easier for women to be out about being bisexual, at least discreetly. I even had a guy tell me that it was fashionable for women to be bi. (I gave him fare for the clue bus. I don’t know if he took it.)

However, along with transgender and genderqueer folks, male bisexuality is the least understood and accepted sexual orientation in our society. There’s a strong straight is straight and gay is gay mentality among straight and gay people. Bisexual men are seen as confused or unwilling to step out of the closet. There are strong societal pressures and standards that desirable men are supposed to be virile and attractive to and successful with women. Anything that veers from those standards makes men outcasts. For bisexual men who are married or are in other committed relationships, coming out to a significant other can have problematic relationship risks.

I truly believe that lack of acceptance comes from ignorance. I don’t mean to use the word “ignorance” in an insulting way. It’s just that there isn’t enough information and personal stories available for people to understand what it’s like for a man to be bisexual, especially since many bisexual men hold their sexuality close to the vest, let alone admit to themselves that they’re bisexual.

I thought the best way to give people a better understanding about male bisexuality is all about would be for bisexual men to talk frankly and openly about their sexuality – even with my steel trap promise to keep their identities anonymous. I had several people tell me, “I have a friend who’s bi, but he doesn’t want to talk with you directly (or at all).” Even a good male friend who’s open with me didn’t want to share his experiences.

“You know me,” he said. “I can’t tell you everything you want to know. It’s TMI between friends, even though you’re a sex blogger, have good intentions, and have never passed judgment on me.”

However, one man, Gerry, 38, did come forward. He told me everything I wanted to know about what it’s like for him to be a bisexual man.

Gerry’s story isn’t every bisexual man’s story, but many of the things that he’s encountered ring pretty true for a lot of bi men. I hope anyone who reads his thoughts gains a lot more understanding, empathy, compassion and acceptance of bi men.

Gerry’s Story

Is it easy to come out to certain people? Yes, but, only to people in my social circle. In the circles I choose to associate with in my personal life, bisexuality isn’t all that big of a deal.

Being a Bisexual Man at Work

At work, that’s different. Bi boys have some terrible stereotypes, including a stereotype that we are sexual predators. Gay men have had this stereotype as well. But because bisexual men tend to be far less visible than gay men, that stereotype remains.

Gay men and women can be very unfriendly to bi folk.

If I’m the target of illegal discrimination, it’s very difficult to prove.

I’ve personally been falsely accused of being inappropriate at work. She was a radical Christian. I can sometimes come off as being a bit fruity. I can often pass as being gay a whole lot better than I pass for being straight. She assumed I was gay, felt that it was her Christian duty to get me fired, and accused me of having phone sex while at work. I knew who had accused me and publicly stated that, “My girlfriend and I would never do anything inappropriate at work.” She was shocked that I had a girlfriend and therefore must be straight. The accusation went away, I received an apology from the accuser and I was firmly in the closet at that job.

I think that if I were gay, I would have better protections and a better set of stereotypes used against me. It’s better to be seen as Will as in Will and Grace rather than Dr. Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At work, I’m deeply in the closet. I even cultivate a false image of being deeply and quietly prudish. No one at work could possibly associate me with being a hypersexual, somewhat rape-y, bisexual stereotype. When I do activist work for gay rights, I let them think me gay. When I’m at work, I let them think me straight. Sounds handy? I guess having passing privileges is handy. But, it’s not a happy thing and it’s not healthy or comfortable.

There are days that I think I should just come out at work. I’ve been there for eight years, run the lab, have a blemish-free record, and contribute. But, then I wonder if it would be worth the risk to lose all of that. There are some really conservative, politically powerful people I work with.

Bisexual Men and Dating and Relationships

Speaking of negative stereotypes, yeah, there are some people who would look at my love life and see a stereotype. This reminds me of what my Jewish wife says when someone asks her if there are a lot of doctors, accountants and lawyers in her family. She says, “First, That’s actually a stereotype. Jews are just people who follow the diverse range of careers that any other ethnic group does. Second, yes.” So, if someone says, “Oh, you’re bisexual. So, that must mean that you have lots of sexual partners and engage in ‘the kinky stuff,’” I may respond “First, just because a person is bisexual doesn’t mean that they are any more or less capable of monogamy as a straight person or that if affects the kind of sex they have. Bisexuals are just people. Second, yes. I have lots of sexual partners and engage in ‘the kinky Stuff.’”

Sigh … Living the stereotype, but I live the stereotype with class. I’m completely open and honest with my wife. She’s bisexual, as well. Our relationship started open and remains an open marriage. It serves us well. My wife doesn’t date nearly as much as I do, which isn’t because of any lack of equal freedom. She is as free as I am. She just doesn’t have the same inclination to do so. It’s her choice. Choice is important. My wife conducting her social life in the same manner that I do would be extremely stressful for her so, she conducts it in a way that suits her.

As far as how my bisexuality fits into this, I don’t get nearly enough boy. I don’t have much to do with the gay community. My early interactions with the gay community were wildly dysfunctional. It was made very clear that I was not welcome unless I was willing to publicly identify as gay. So, I don’t date much in the gay community. I don’t go looking for short term, NSA hookups. Doesn’t interest me. My relationships tend to be long-term. One-night stands don’t really appeal to me at all. There are bi people in my social circle but they are mostly women. I know that there are bi men but, I have more criteria for my choice of a partner than compatible sexual orientation. I have to be attracted to him. He needs to be a compatible sexual orientation and he needs to be attracted to me.

Sigh, the stars seems to need to align for me to get a bit of boy in my sex life. I’ve tried online dating with little success, but occasionally I do stumble onto a bit of boy sex. It just hasn’t resulted in a permanent boyfriend. Sooner or later that will change. But until then, boy sex is a rare treat. Also, there’s not a whole lot of spontaneous sex, boy or girl. Both parties get a STI panel before we hop into bed with anything more than oral.

How it’s Easier for Men to be Gay Than Bi

It can take a whole long time to figure out where ones sexual orientation is and there’s a whole lot of interference along the way. For the people who are straight or gay, it can be easy. But, in the middle, not so much. Growing up, there’s lots of pressure to be straight. Sometimes, the pressures can extend to violence. Once one realizes that they may not be straight, there are lots of pressures from the gay community to identify as gay. (Disclaimer: this is my own personal experience. Experiences and cultural attitudes may vary between places. This may also be getting better.)

When someone comes out as gay, even if it makes the rest of their life suck (family, religious, school, work, etc.), they have this awesome community and culture to draw upon. When someone comes out as gay, they get coming out parties, gay clubs, and hot gay boys dancing and positive media representation, and this whole singing of We are Family. They get gay pride parades. Parades!

Bi folk don’t get that support. Instead of coming out parties they get people who don’t date bi people because we are neurotic, fence sitters, cowards or a cold shoulder. The nice ones say, “Don’t worry. Some day you will be able to admit you’re gay.” So, it’s a choice between closets. If you know where you are on the Klein Orientation Grid or if you don’t know where you are, it doesn’t help one to figure it out. This is why I don’t have anything to do with the gay culture except for queer rights activism.

I was lucky. I knew where I was, but I can understand going years or decades without knowing where one is. During those years of not knowing, lots of things happen in building a life. For many, learning what their sexual orientation is can be a catastrophe. Family life and child custody can be at stake. It leaves no good options.

I managed to find a path that ethically allows me to be me. Not everyone is so lucky. For the people who are forced to stuff it in or cheat. I feel bad for all involved. Wouldn’t honesty be nice? Yes, but is following morals that lead to destruction for others ethical? Life is messy. So if some married bloke goes out for a piece of boy tail on the side, I refuse to judge.

Also, it would be easy to mistake celibacy in with one gender but not the other as being a choice of sexual orientation.

I have some hypotheses why the gay community has a problems with bisexuals. But, it’s only a hypothesis. The gay community is a class under siege. They’ve had to fight for recognition of being anything but a terrible stereotype. One of those common threads is an accusation of being gay being a choice. They’ve had to defend the fact that the defining feature of their class is immutable and inborn, and then a bi boy/girl rolls in and they have the capacity to enjoy sex with either/all genders.

Being Wronged by the Religious Right

Religious fundamentalists are a natural hazard. It can go well past a feeling of entitlement for their view on how people should be. Often they feel that it is their duty to punish those who don’t conform to their ideas of what people should be; rather than being what people actually are. The invisibility of bi folks and a disconnect from the gay community can make this far worse. This is why I use stealth when it suits me.

Summing it Up

So, to summarize:

1. I found a large community in the poly and kink scene that accepts bisexuals as nothing unusual. Excellent support. Great people. Fun parties. It’s my community.

2. There’s a dysfunctional relationship with the gay community. I have hopes that that will someday change. I want to take part of that rainbow.

3. There are challenging relationships with the straight world. It’s not always safe to be out. Protections for the gay community don’t always extend in practice for bi men, even if they have legal protections.

~  ~  ~

I can’t begin to thank Gerry enough for sharing his story except perhaps if you share his story, too. I know it would be a pipedream for both of us if his story could change millions of people’s perceptions about bisexual men, but it feels rewarding to get the ball rolling, even if the ball is only the size of a snowball.